The Devil’s Advocate: Would requiring Americans to use Biometric ID cards be an invasion of privacy?

In Columns, Opinion

By Michael Arellano

Daily Titan Staff Writer

President Obama is pushing for the United States to start using Biometric ID cards in order to better keep track of legal workers. In theory, these cards will be similar to a driver license, except for one added feature. These cards will either have fingerprint or retinal information stored on them so that the card can more accurately represent the user. Both fingerprints and retinal information are thought to be unique to each human being, and could easily be stored on a magnetic strip or chip inserted into a card.

People across the country see this initiative as an encroachment on privacy laws. They believe that because their information will be on this card that it will be stored in a database, and thus make it possible to identify a person when the card is used. Because of this, people think that the government is going to somehow, someday, make it mandatory to scan these IDs for everything from purchasing groceries to traveling. And if this happens it will allow “Big Brother” to track the whereabouts of every American citizen.

This is textbook example of snowball thinking.

Just because one event happens does not mean that the next will fall into place just like that. People limit their thinking to encompass only the possibilities they believe are possible. In reality, these cards would only affect immigrant workers.

Currently, there are an estimated 12 million illegal immigrants in the U.S. With this policy, it would make it much easier to track undocumented workers, and simplify the process for immigrants to obtain legal working status.

It also solves the problem of America’s workers being outsourced by cheap labor from illegal immigrants. If these immigrants are give legal status they must be paid minimum wage. This will not only help the American workforce, but better the quality of life for many immigrants. This could, in turn, decrease the demand for the country’s safety net services for homelessness, hunger and healthcare saving the country money on its social service programs.

I don’t understand why some people automatically jump to the worst-case scenario when a new policy is about to be passed. This sort of fear of the unknown has caused the country to be in a state of paralysis. A country needs to change its policies to match the changing future. Citizens shouldn’t always be in conflict with their government. Every action taken by our policy-makers does not have evil underderlying controlling factors. People need to be educated about what the government is doing, but they also need to trust that their government is working in their best interests and not its own.

By Ashley Luu

Daily Titan Staff Writer

Legal immigrants and United States citizens – be aware that as soon as you swipe your Biometric ID cards as you enter the workforce, “Big Brother is watching you.”

The “enhanced Social Security card” reminds me of George Orwell’s novel “1984,” which consists of a society that is under complete surveillance by authorities. The people are reminded that their dictator, “Big Brother,” is always watching them.With the swipe of a card, the government will have the ability to track citizens, according to a Christian Science Monitor article.

In case we forget where we’ve been on which day at what time, have no fear! We can ask the government to check our records on those lovely ID cards. Chris Calabrese, legislative counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union, said that Biometric ID cards are a massive invasion of people’s privacy.

“We’re not only talking about fingerprinting every American … We’re also talking about a card that would quickly spread from work to voting to travel to pretty much every aspect of American life that requires identification,” Calabrese said.

The government wants to spend more effort and manpower by placing Americans underneath a looking glass. That sounds familiar. Does the Patriot Act ring a bell? As a reminder, the act allows law enforcement agencies to search telephone, e-mail communications, medical and financial documents.

Great. If implemented, Biometric IDs can be added to the list of reasons why Americans should be concerned, suspicious and paranoid about what they do and where they go.

Groups like the American Library Association and Americans for Tax Reform oppose the plan because the broken immigration system harms both immigrants and non-immigrants. The ID would violate privacy, facilitate tracking of individuals and would serve as a government permission slip needed by everyone in order to work.

The proposal would require the development of a national database and could cost $285 million, according to Tech Daily Dose. Let’s not forget that the national deficit will nearly reach the record of $1.4 trillion achieved in 2009. I figured the government’s priority would be to decrease unemployment.

It seems like these controversial ID cards are going to add daily doses of trouble as people are wrongfully denied work because average officials, and some FBI experts, are not equipped to determine if two fingerprints are a match, according to a Time magazine article.

What can I say, government? You’ve done it again. Thanks for helping the U.S.

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  • Lynnea Urania Stuart

    I really don’t see how a biometric ID is going to be safer for anyone to use. How much of our personal information is on hackable databases already? Is the proposal also to include tearing down the Internet and starting all over again as a few have proposed?

    So now not only do our drivers licences and social security numbers end up in places like Pakistan whenever we apply for loans, thanks to outsourcing, but now our fingerprints and retinal scans will go there as well. Now, not only will people steal identities by means of stolen Social Security information, but will eventually have the technology to fake a retina or a fingerprint for whatever crime and allow these crimes to be blamed on unknowing victims.

    Another question in my mind is whether this is to be made part of the Real ID Act, passed under the Bush Administration, but whose implementation is delayed by angry states who will have to shoulder the financial burden of replacing their existing systems. That also would be bad news for many because of its requirements on everyone.

    Under the Real ID Act, we will have to produce 4 forms of identification to get “secure” ID’s. So we have a birth certificate, an existing drivers license or state ID, and a Social Security card, and maybe a passport. But the Social Security card may not be accepted as ID per se because it does not have an address or an expiration date. Most will feel compelled to use a credit card. This foists extra pressure upon those who conscientiously refuse to use credit cards, including some Evangelicals. This does make it difficult on immigrants who have trouble coming up with documents which had never been required in their own countries. It also make it difficult for people who transition from one sex to another because Social Security will no longer allow changes of gender markers unless a new birth certificate is issued.

    Consider if a retinal scan is included in the ID. Is this the scan of a male or a female? In America, rigid gender dichotomy matters. What is in Social Security must match EDD and every other agency. One who is in his/her Real Life Test may be prohibited from presenting in his/her target sex in the workplace, even though medical practice demands this be done prior to surgery. If there is no match, and employer may be compelled by threat of fine to terminate the transitioning worker. This alone is discriminatory, even apart from immigration.

    I am convinced that we are being taken down a yellow-brick road of false security with this.

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